Director: Régis Roinsard
Cast: Romain Duris, Déborah François
Watch Populaire online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Google Play
Populaire is without a doubt the best speed-typing film of all time. One, because there probably aren’t any others. Two, because it’s fantastic.
A delightful mix of Pygmalion and day-to-day office work, Populaire’s retro stylings play out somewhere between a 1950s US rom-com and a French episode of Mad Men. Romain Duris stars as Louis, a driven businessman with an eye for the ladies and an ear for counting words per minute. When Rose Pamphyle (François) enters his office, her loud jabbing fingers soon catch his attention – along with everything else.
“This machine is made for humans, not elephants!” he reprimands her, every bit the brooding Don Draper. It’s not long until she becomes his protege, stomping all over the keyboard as they aim to win a national speedwriting tournament.
A niche sports competition? 1950s France? Romain Duris? It may smack of by-the-numbers rom-com writing, but Régis Roinsard’s energetic direction and a smart script gives the film an irresistible flair: pastel-coloured sets and suave costumes nail the period vibe, while our lead male revels in society’s chauvinist attitudes with wit as pointed as his gigantic chin.
As the typewriter ink heats up, Roinsard’s camera zips around the room, ricocheting across the keyboard and swinging behind the table like a Sky Sports advert for an administrative vacancy. But no matter how cool the visuals, we just can’t look away from Déborah François. Sassy, shy and a whole lot of independent, she steals the entire show – together with Duris and The Artist’s Berenice Bejo in a complex supporting role, she turns a knockabout romp into a fully-fledged drama, creating a romance that you actually care about.
A film about typing that makes you laugh and cry? We couldn’t write about it quickly enough. Oh yes, this deserves to be tres, tres, tres Populaire.
Populaire is available on BBC iPlayer until 8th April 2017.